Author Archives: Brenna Chen

Inspiring Hikers

When I hike, I’m amazed by the incredible diversity of the people around me. Even with more difficult hikes, there isn’t one stereotypical hiker; there’s always a mix of people, some of whom I would never expect, some of whom are experienced hikers families and children.

But what amazes me most is their determination. Even while hiking Mission Peak, a hike that made me want to turn back many times, I would see families, children and the elderly, who somehow had the stamina to take that next step, to keep going, to finish the hike. And even when they were clearly struggling, they would refuse to turn back, remaining optimistic and enthusiastic.

I will remember one experience clearly during that hike. Halfway through the hike, I passed an elderly man struggling through a particularly steep hill. Although I gave him an encouraging smile, I could almost guarantee he would turn back soon, but would in no way reach the peak. However, as I began to return from the peak I encountered him again, less than a hill away from the final location. I will never forget my shock as he continued to take step after step, faltering slightly at times but never looking back. How could this man, who was struggling after a mile of hiking, hike three miles and still keep going? What drove his determination and seemingly never-ending stamina?

These inspiring sights and hikers definitely motivated me to keep going, take that next step and not give up myself. And the next time I hike, it won’t only be for the hike but the uplifting experiences and sights I see as well that continue to amaze and inspire me.

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Bonding Through Hiking

Recently, while hiking with a friend, I was particularly amazed by a very simple thing: the openness and friendliness of hikers. Now, this may seem awfully mundane to many of you, but in a world where many are used to looking at their phones and completely ignoring surroundings, this was an incredibly surprising and refreshing experience to me that totally shifted my mood on the hike.

Now, my friend and I chose to hike Mission Peak, which is by no means an easy hike and is around three miles long and two thousand feet high. And although we might have had a more relaxing time on an easier trail, the hike was unique as it accentuated the uplifting effects hiking had on us and other hikers, complete strangers who demonstrated incredible compassion and concern towards us fellow hikers.

For instance, hikers passing by would often give a smile, a wave and even words of encouragement like “You can do it!” or “Almost there!” In fact, when my friend and I took a short break from the hike, a hiker even stopped by to ask if we needed any water. His willingness to sacrifice his precious water on such a scorching afternoon was truly the confirmation I needed that the incredibly friendly nature of hikers was not just a coincidence or misunderstanding.

In fact, I was beginning to feel the effects of hiking itself, smiling sympathetically and offering encouraging words to other hikers at other hikers as we painstakingly climbed the hills. The struggle of the hike had allowed me to bond with these seemingly complete strangers, as we were both going through – and struggling, at least for me – through this ordeal together. And in the end we were all sweating, groaning and panting, completely exposed and in no shape to put up appearances or shields up. In fact, when my friend and I finally reached the top, we started laughing in relief, and were soon joined in by other hikes, utterly breaking down the barriers between us.

So although I may not choose a hike as difficult as Mission Peak again, I’m still glad I could meet and bond with many incredibly uplifting and compassionate hikers on the way, who completely altered the mood of my hike and made it infinitely better.

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Mission Peak

The steady pound of my footsteps, accompanied with groans as the trail grew harder. The thick, dusty air, kicked up from our feet as we struggled to take the next step. The blazing sunlight on my back the sun crept higher, a persistent reminder that there was no turning back.

One day later, a shade darker and with multiple aching bones and sunburns, I sit back reminiscing on that memorable hike to Mission Peak. If only I had known when I was getting into…

After seeing the incredible views and pictures from Mission Peak, my desire for hiking this particular trail grew until one day, I finally arranged to hike the trail with a friend, both assuming it to be easy and relaxed.

We started the hike to Mission Peak with the sun just beginning to rise, a few rosy streaks peaking out onto the trail. Relatively flat at first, the trail soon rapidly grew more steep until we could only take a few steps until we needed a break, huffing and trying to add strength in our legs. Yet my friend and I persevered, refusing to give up on this hike and aiming for the ultimate goal – the peak (and Instagram-worthy photos along with it, of course).

So we kept on, step after step, hill after hill, mile after mile, a tiny fire rekindling in me every time I saw a hiker turn back. Yet my heart sunk when I saw the three steep hills that led to the peak. Almost crying out loud, I truly considered the fact of turning back, just calling it quits and sparing myself the pain of hiking those hills. But somehow we managed, and the satisfaction from standing on the peak made it infinitely worth the pain.

This hike totally blew me away; I had always imagined hiking as amiable, easy, and relaxed, but this hike was physically one of the hardest things I had to endure in a while. Step after step, with the end nowhere in sight, a hiker required infinite patience and faith to simply keep walking.

But what surprised me the most was the attitude of the other hikers. Many offered a friendly smile and words of encouragement, and it seemed as if this hike had somehow brought us closer through all the pain. So will I hike Mission Peak again? Probably not. But I was truly inspired by the bonds and experiences from hiking, and would definitely love to hike (an easier) trail next time :).

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Watching a Sunset

We see it every day. A pink hue slowly settling over the horizon, occasionally speckled with golden rays peeking through, a last remembrance of the day before the blanket of dark pulls over. Yet we often overlook it, viewing it as mundane, unremarkable, unimportant, it’s constant presence simply a routine occurrence in everyday life.

Recently, on the way home, I witnessed an amazing sunset, and I started to think. “When was the last time I had witnessed a sunset?” And then my train of thought carried on: “When was the last time I had seen a sunrise? A full moon? Or even stars?” And it struck me: I couldn’t remember the last time I had seen stars.

And then I began to wonder why. I had plenty of free time on my hands, at least enough to take a few minutes out of my day. Yet I had not taken a few minutes to simply watch a sunset. I was so wrapped up in my daily mundane affairs that I simply forgot to be aware and to observe my surroundings, to just take a break from the hustle and worries and to just sit and watch.

And this is the sad reality for many of us. So wrapped up in our duties, worries, stresses, we remain oblivious to so many incredible phenomenons around us. So whether it be a falling leaf, a towering pine, or a sunset, I’ll make sure I don’t hastily turn away, focused on my next task. And next time I see a sunset, I’ll be sure to just sit and watch. 🙂

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The Stigma Behind Monta Vista

Walking through the halls of Monta Vista, I have grown used to certain snippets of conversation: “I’m taking so many APs this year!” “I don’t know if I can keep my 4.0…” “I’m seriously so tired and stressed…” As a rising junior, I’ve begun to realize that these snippets are not just the whining of a teenager; these complaints are the signs of a serious issue that has enrooted itself into many high school mindsets.

Since when did high school become a place to cram AP tests, take harder classes and pile on more extracurriculars, rather than a place to enjoy your teenage years? Since when did summers become a chance to “get ahead” from your peers rather than hang out with friends? Since when did we become so engrossed with the thought of getting into a “good” college and being successful that we’ve begun to lose our roots, our youth?

That is the real issue: our environment, manifesting from the pressure from parents, peers and ourselves to do well, overloads us with stress, forcing us to take classes and extracurriculars we don’t want simply to match our peers, which thus increases stress and pressures peers into a never-ending cycle.

Even the FUHSD school district has started to realize the problem, proposing later start times, fewer allowed AP tests, and other alternatives to relieve stress. But the real root of the issue can’t be solved with an hour delay in the school schedule or less testing; it must come from us. Our mindsets are the driving force of this pressure, and I think we are the only ones capable of truly shifting our mindsets. Therefore, although I understand I should still try my best in school, I’m determined not to forget to live a little, to enjoy high school and to make some irreplaceable memories.

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